For anyone who has not read the late Tony Harvey’s wonderful book ‘Not a Penny in the Post’, it is an absolute must. It goes into the real detail of the ups and downs of being a Master of Harriers in Suffolk during the latter part of the last century with, at the very beginning very little resources to rely on. However Tony always found a way to not only enjoy himself but to ensure the Easton Harriers went from strength to strength during his reign.
To read more, click here to subscribe or if you are already a subscriber, please log in!
Tony was well recognised for his organisation of the many different aspects that make up the running of a Hunt, particularly the relationship he had with his farmers. That was number one priority and woe betide anyone who was going to put that at risk, as I was to find out! More of that, a little later. His hounds, quite rightly were at the very top of that list and the breeding and hunting of them was something he took extremely seriously. The Easton were indeed a very distinctive type of their own, and not necessarily a pack which would go and gather up great numbers rosettes from the Shows. They did however hunt and were a source of constant joy to a man whose greatest love was venery, and the true art of hunting the hare. Other Harrier packs have sometimes been known to deviate to hunting the fox when the occasion arises. Not Tony. The fox was riot and nothing else but!
What also becomes very clear during the book is that Tony loved a party and being the most convivial host. Starting with many joyous occasions before the 11.30 Meets at say the Easton White Horse, Debenham Cherry Tree, Coddenham Dukes Head etc, etc, Tony was the very centre piece of the Hunt and was hugely respected for being so. The aprez chasse parties, also in the pubs where they had met, were remarkable in the fact that so many of the Easton membership had such great capacity for certain types of Scottish beverages, as well as the local ale! Hunt Balls, Dinner Parties at Tannington, hunting by moonlight and exchanges with French hunting enthusiasts were all part of Tony’s commitment to his community and he never wavered from it.
So, all in all as the book so well describes, we have a person who was deeply rooted into Suffolk rural and sporting life. There was one thing however he would not do, and that was to put up with anyone who might put the Easton Harriers at risk. This I found out to my cost, in my early days as Master of the neighbouring Essex and Suffolk. It was a well known fact at the time and still is till this day, that the Essex side was and is far from easy. So with the help and support of some very enthusiastic farmers, it was decided to head a bit further north and open up some country previously unhunted by Foxhounds. This may not have been the most tactful thing to have done and although we were armed with a map that showed the Essex and Suffolk Country going right out to the coast at Aldeburgh, we had undoubtedly opened up a can of hornets, not placid old worms! The battle for Winston Green as we later called it raged for some time and although we felt we had a very good rapport with the farmers, Tony and those from the Easton were certainly not going to accept any such thing. We had ventured into a part of England where Hare hunting had supremacy over Foxhunting.
After much discussion which got us precisely nowhere, we were both summoned to London before our respective organisations and a very sensible compromise was achieved. It was decided we would travel back together and celebrate our individual successes! One of us was however meant to get off at Colchester and it wasn’t until we saw that we had flown by the Station that we realised the first stop was Ipswich!
Tony and the many individual characters in the book are what really makes it such an enjoyable read. Having had the pleasure of being in the company of many of them in the past, makes it extra special to me. However, I do want to mention something which I consider to be the golden thread that runs right the way through, and that is, as well as the hounds Tony was hunting and for which he had such a love, he had equal respect for the Hare. The in depth descriptions of a hunt, whatever the conclusion is what demonstrates so clearly the wonderful link that man had with his hounds and the hunted animal.
Tony came to our last Meet at the Fitzwilliam. He stayed till the Saturday to hunt with the three packs of Beagles, and a lot of true sporting pleasure was partaken of that weekend. If he were alive today I would raise a glass to him and say Tony, it was a pleasure to read your book right from the very beginning to the end and most grateful thanks for the fun you and the Harvey family gave us all over the years.